Xavier, Cincinnati renew rivalry in new format


Xavier, Cincinnati renew rivalry in new format

CINCINNATI (AP) The city's storied basketball rivalry is back in a very different format.

When Xavier and Cincinnati played last season, their annual crosstown game ended with punches and punishments - four players from each team suspended. The small Catholic school and large public school, separated by only 2 1/2 miles, spent the rest of the season dealing with the black mark on their reputations and one of the city's marquee sporting events.

The overriding question: Should the rivalry end?

It'll be renewed on Wednesday night in a different setting. The game has been moved away from the campuses, bringing fans of both schools together in the stands at a downtown arena.

The mood is different, too. There's been no trash talking between Xavier (7-2) and No. 11 Cincinnati (10-0). Both teams are avoiding talk of the brawl as well, wishing they could move beyond it.

A good, clean game on Wednesday night would go a long way.

``It was a regrettable moment,'' Xavier coach Chris Mack said. ``We lived that a year ago. As an educator, someone who mentors players, the message has been that we need to learn from what happened a year ago. And I think our kids have.''

The two schools and basketball fans around the city have learned what it's like when a sporting event gets out of hand.

Xavier was unbeaten and ranked No. 8 when it beat the Bearcats 76-53 on the Musketeers' home court last season. With 9.4 seconds left, words were exchanged, the basketball was flung and fists started flying - the darkest moment in the rivalry's 79-game history.

Four players from each team were suspended for up to six games. Coaches and players gave emotional apologies. The schools talked about whether to skip the rivalry game for a year.

With its top two front-line players suspended, Cincinnati went to a three-guard offense and took off, reaching the NCAA tournament's round of 16. Xavier fell apart and didn't regroup until the closing weeks of the season, also reaching the round of 16. Both teams had to answer questions about the fight's lingering effects the rest of the way.

Eventually, they agreed to keep the rivalry going, but wanted to remove its nasty edge. The game was moved to a downtown arena for the next two seasons. The name was changed from the Crosstown Shootout to the Crosstown Classic. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center became a partner. Students and players from both schools toured the center together.

Five of the eight suspended players have moved on, including four who started last year. There's been no boasting, no turning the game into a referendum on which program is better - a notable break from the past.

``Everyone on their team is very talented and very good as well,'' Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick said. ``Their starters are as good as our starters and their bench can be as good as our bench. We don't know how it's going to be, but it will be a great matchup.''

Part of the rivalry's edge comes from proximity. The players face each other during summer league games in Cincinnati. Fans from both schools work side-by-side during the week. They relish their once-a-year bragging rights event.

``The animosity that people outside the region perceived is not the case,'' Mack said. ``And we have to make sure that's highlighted when we play on Wednesday night. It's going to be a hard-played game, it always is. But it's got to be one that's played the way it was played in the past, and it will be.''

The officials are likely to call it close, which could benefit the Bearcats, who have a much deeper bench.

The Bearcats also are more familiar with the downtown U.S. Bank Arena, where Cincinnati plays more regularly and has won it last 17 games. Xavier hasn't played at the arena since 2007-08. The schools played their rivalry there 10 times from 1976-87 before moving it on campus.

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin thinks the neutral site will be helpful to both teams.

``It readies your team for postseason because that's where the NCAA tournament is,'' Cronin said. ``They're played at big arenas, downtown arenas at neutral sites. I think it's great for the city that we're playing down at U.S. Bank Arena, but at the same time I think it'll be advantageous for both of us come March to have a game like this at a neutral site.''

For the coaches, it's a challenge to get their teams through a game that has so much buildup and tends to linger. That part hasn't changed.

``I think it's incredibly important to the community,'' Mack said. ``It's a tough game. It's one game. There are a lot of eyes on the game nationally, locally, you name it, heightened this year a little bit.

``But at the same time when Wednesday comes and goes, both teams have to be able to turn the page. Cincinnati did that a year ago - they went on an incredible run. We didn't.''


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Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Following their seventh loss in 11 games and another lackluster performance in key areas, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks reverted back to a critique that characterized many defeats months ago. He called into question the effort of his team, more specifically their urgency. How they could overlook the stakes at this point of the season and with so much on the line had escaped him.

Brooks wasn't pleased following Washington's 108-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. He didn't like their three-point defense, their inability to force turnovers and their lack of zip on offense. But overall, it was the apparent lack of realization that time is running out in the regular season and off-nights cannot be afforded.

"We have to play with more spirit [and] we have to take some pride in our home court," Brooks said. "We’re building our habits going into the playoffs and these are moments where we need to take advantage because it’s playoff implications in every game."


Pride is something Brooks has referenced after the Wizards' worst defeats since he took over. This one didn't qualify, as they only lost by eight points and had opportunities late to write a different ending. But they were playing a team fighting for their own playoff position in the opposite conference and for the most part did not match their intensity.

The Nuggets, to put it plainly, are among the worst defensive teams in basketball. They were missing their leading scorer, Gary Harris. And they tightened their rotation to just eight players.

Yet the Wizards only managed 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers. Aside from their 33-point third quarter, the Wizards' offense was effectively stalled. 

"We can’t have guys that are not going to participate with hard cuts and hard setups and good screens. We need everybody. It’s not one person, it’s all," Brooks said.


The Wizards only forced 10 turnovers on the Nuggets and only three in the first half. That held back their offense in the sense they had few opportunities for fastbreak buckets.

"That’s where we get most of our offense from anyways, getting stops, getting out in transition," forward Otto Porter said.

The Wizards have lost two straight games. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers and Pacers both won on Friday night.

The Wizards are sixth place in the East and just 1 1/2 games out of fourth, but there is a huge difference in those spots. Sixth could mean meeting the Cavs in the first round and they have won three straight since Kevin Love returned from injury.


The Cavaliers could quickly become the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. Their record is deceiving due to Love's injury and they still boast LeBron James, the best player on the planet. No one can control a playoff series quite like he can.

An argument could be made the Wizards would be better off moving down than up, as the seventh spot would match them up with the injury-riddled Boston Celtics. The Wizards are just 1 1/2 games ahead of the seventh-seed Miami Heat.

The Wizards, though, would prefer to move up and they still have a chance to get into fourth, which would mean home court advantage.

John Wall will return at some point, likely soon. In the short-term, Brooks would like to some urgency and for his team to get back to the trademark ball movement that allowed them to go 10-3 in their first 13 games when Wall went down.

"We can get it back, but it’s not going to come back. We have to go get it. It’s time to do it; it’s time," Brooks said.

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Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens

Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Canadiens will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals (43-24-7) take on the Canadiens (27-36-12) Saturday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Montreal.


The Capitals-Canadiens game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. for postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals at Canadiens
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime


You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.